Water shakes off green leaves as squirrels dart through the branches. A green canopy and extensive foliage limit visibility for both hunter and prey. Spring squirrel season is one week away from opening.
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fish and Parks small game biologist Rick Hamrick said the forest foliage and action of spring squirrel season is similar to early fall squirrel season.
Spring squirrel season lasts 17 days from May 15 to June 1 with a daily limit of four squirrels. MDWFP has a shorter season and half the bag limit in the spring than in the fall because the department wanted to be conservative in its approach when they brought the season back in 2014. He said he’s not sure how long the state went without a season. of spring. before 2014.
“We’re starting out being a little bit conservative not knowing what kind of crop we might get,” Hamrick said. “Most of the young squirrels from the winter period are pretty well weaned by the time we get to the (spring season). We’re pretty sure it’s not having too much detrimental effect. It is probably less detrimental compared to the end of winter (fall season).”
Squirrel hunting in the spring is also different because the squirrels have a different diet than they do in the late fall hunting season. Acorn, nut and seed stores are likely to have sprouted by the time the season starts, he said.
He said that the squirrels that carry seeds, nuts and acorns contribute to the planting and regeneration of forests, he said. Young trees grow and produce cocoons, which can be a food source for squirrels.
Insects, young tree bark, shoots, fruit, and larvae all contribute to the squirrel’s diet in the spring months. Hamrick said the spring season is known as berry season in some states because squirrels like to eat berries. Identifying food sources is still important for spring hunting, as it is for fall squirrel hunting.
“They have quite a diverse diet for seed eaters,” Hamrick said. “Usually they use a wide variety of foods. Gardeners will know that when they start harvesting tomatoes… They are a little more opportunistic than people think they are.”
After spring squirrel season ends, hunters can hunt frogs, raccoons, and nuisance animals in the three months before pigeon season opens. He said there are a few reasons why the season starts on May 15 and ends on June 1.
The spring turkey season could be extended through mid-May based on state statute, he said. The May 15 start date keeps them out of conflict as long as the spring turkey season is extended. There aren’t that many hunters who want to hunt in spring squirrel season, either, she said.
The harvest data shows that spring is considerably lower in harvested squirrels than the fall data, he said. This data is collected through phone surveys and surveys that hunters complete when they leave a Wildlife Management Area such as Sandy Creek.
“In Mississippi, not many people will want to go out (and hunt) in June. The weather gets a little nasty for hunting at that time,” Hamrick said. “Squirrel-dog hunters are probably more interested at that time to work with their dogs. We give them a little more opportunity to get out. They can have more time to keep their dogs fit and work with the squirrels.”